Courtney Snowden
Courtney Snowden Credit: Darrow Montgomery

In her old job, as Mayor Muriel Bowser‘s appointed deputy mayor for greater economic development, Courtney Snowden was in charge of promoting jobs and small business growth east of the Anacostia River.

About three years and two ethics investigations after her appointment, Snowden resigned in September 2018. A news release from Bowser’s office said Snowden was leaving for a new position outside the D.C. government, but it did not specify the role she planned to take.

Now, in her new job as a lobbyist for Juul Labs Inc., Snowden will promote the interests of the California-based e-cigarette company whose stated mission is to improve “the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers.”

Recent evidence suggests that the company, which makes those vapes that look like USB flash drives, has contributed to the explosion in teenagers’ use of e-cigarettes. A white paper published in January by researchers with Stanford Research looked into the impact of tobacco advertising and found that the company used social media to focus on marketing to youth, despite its proclaimed goals.

JUUL’s advertising imagery in its first 6 months on the market was patently youth oriented. For the next 2 ½ years it was more muted, but the company’s advertising was widely distributed on social media channels frequented by youth, was amplified by hashtag extensions, and catalyzed by compensated influencers and affiliates. JUUL’s mission statement to “Improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers” and their repeated assertion that their product is meant for “adult smokers only” has not been congruent with its marketing practices over its first 3 years.

Ted Kwong, a spokesman for Juul, tells City Paper that in Snowden’s position as the company’s senior director of strategic partnerships, she leads some of Juul’s initiatives, “such as our advocacy to raise the minimum purchasing age for tobacco products, including vapor products like JUUL, to 21 at the local, state and federal levels.” 

Earlier this month another Juul lobbyist, Brandon Hatton, registered with the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability to lobby in the District.

Kwong says he is not aware of any local legislation in D.C. that Hatton is currently working on. Snowden’s role is more nationally focused. Snowden could not be reached for comment.

A program for the 2019 League of United Latin American Citizens National Women’s Conference where Snowden recently spoke underscores her role in the Bowser administration and her previous work for the Raben Group where she lobbied on behalf of Google, MasterCard, Aribnb, the National Urban League, National Education Association, and Time Warner Cable.

During her tenure in the D.C. government, Snowden was one of two top Bowser administration officials found to have skirted the competitive school lottery system in 2017 with the help of former schools chancellor Kaya Henderson.

The D.C. inspector general also found Snowden improperly used her government staff to babysit her child during working hours. The Board of Ethics and Government Accountability fined her $3,000.

After Snowden’s resignation in September 2018, it appeared Bowser intended to replace her. Instead, the mayor eliminated the position and created the Office of East of the River Services.